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Egypt's $60 Billion Bet on Nuclear Energy

czech-power_thumb.jpgIt is one of the largest nuclear energy deals (4800 MW) inked so far this century and is similar in scale as a project in terms of electricity generation capacity to the four 1400 MW units being built by South Korea in the UAE.

Assuming these two projects, and a 4800 MW project in Turkey, are finished by the end of the decade, new nuclear capacity in the Middle East will total 11,000 MW of electrical generation capacity.

Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation “Rosatom” is reported to have signed contracts with Egypt for construction of four 1200 MW VVER type nuclear reactors, the company’s chief announced this month.

Alexey Likhachev said that Rosatom signed commercial deals with Egypt worth $60 billion contract to construct the Dabaa nuclear power plant as well for its maintenance and supplies of nuclear fuel.  The $60 billion figure is apparently a life cycle cost with the reactors themselves costing about $29 billion.

The nuclear plant will be built with a Russian loan of up to $25 billion at an annual interest rate of three per cent. The payment schedule will be 35 years. Egypt will provide the remaining 15 percent of the costs in cash.

“These contracts are the first-ever in the nuclear industry and are Russia’s largest non-crude products export agreement,” Russia Today (RT) quoted Likhachev as saying. “This is certainly a very big contribution to the development of Russian-Egyptian relations.”

Russia will also build factories in Egypt for the domestic manufacture of nuclear plant components, bringing in the required expertise; and Rosatom will service the plant for 60 years.

According to the Egyptian energy minister, Mohamed Shaker, the plant is due to be completed by 2026-2027. The Dabaa coastal site is located about 200 miles west of Cairo.

According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), these are the first commercial nuclear reactors to be built in Egypt and only the second such facilities to be built on the African continent. In addition to the construction of the reactors, infrastructure investments will be needed in regional transmission grids and local power lines.

The new plant will require 1500 km of 500 kV transmission line. The government owned utility NPPA expects to have four nuclear desalination plants operating by 2025.

Roastom plans to move spent fuel from the reactors wet to dry storage as quickly as possible and then to return the spent fuel to Russia for reprocessing. Nonproliferation experts are concerned about the project. WNA reports that Egypt signed the Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968, but until 1981 refused to ratify it unless Israel did. It has not signed the Additional Protocol.

WNA points out that the nuclear power will be needed as Egypt has been running short of natural gas to generate electrical power.

WNA reports that Egypt has long been reliant on natural gas for power generation. Annual domestic production of gas peaked in 2009 at 62.7 billion cubic meters (bcm), and had declined to 41.8 bcm by 2016. Over the same period, the country’s gas consumption rose from 42.5 to 51.3 bcm. Supply constraints have arisen after the government halted new exploration contracts in 2013. As a result, there are now significant gas supply constraints, particularly for heavy industry, as the government has shifted supplies to domestic consumers.

The units to be built in Egypt are similar to the four 1200 MW VVER nuclear reactors Rosatom is building in Turkey at the Akkuyu site on the country’s Mediterranean coast. That plant is being financed 50/50 between Rosatom and Turkey.

Problems have arisen there over local financing which remain unresolved, but the project has broken ground. Issues are over guarantees for rates and are a key item. Roastom’s financial deal there is to build and operate the plant for 15 years and then sell it to equity investors.  The cost of the project in Turkey is estimated to be about $30 billion.

New Report Details Opportunities and Challenges for Nuclear Energy in Africa

Last week the Center for Global Development published a new report, Atoms for Africa, which was co-authored by Breakthrough Institute Director of Energy Jessica Lovering and three colleagues at the think tank. (The other authors are: Abigail Sah, Omaro Maseli and Aishwarya Saxena.)

As Todd Moss, of the Center for Global Development, explains in his post on the report, there’s a lot more interest in nuclear energy among African countries than most people realize, new technologies may accelerate deployment, but the lack of international financial support for these nuclear projects is driving African governments to partner with Russia and China.

The authors hope this report jump starts a meaningful dialogue among US and international development organizations around the future of nuclear power in emerging economies.

As Suzy Baker from Third Way points out, the US nuclear industry should be concerned by the absence of the US firms in these nuclear projects. The lack of early engagement from the US nuclear industry in Africa means that we are missing out on strategic partnerships in these countries that could last decades.

Lovering notes that “it will take a whole suite of innovation policies that we’ve seen work in other sectors.”

As previous noted in a post by Lovering on Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions, “the US will need a lot more than a bi-lateral agreement to compete with Russia, South Korea, and China on international nuclear bids. They will need support with export control and financing, yes, but also a commercial advanced nuclear product that meets the changing needs of new markets.”

Fuel Loading Has Started at China’s Taishan-1 EPR

NucNet: Fuel loading has begun at Taishan-1, China’s first Generation III EPR unit which is under construction in the southeastern province of Guangdong, developer China General Nuclear Power (CGN) said in a statement on April, 11, 2018.

CGN, which owns 70% of the project, said it was given formal approval to begin fuel loading at Taishan-1 by the National Nuclear Safety Commission on Tuesday.

The fuel loading procedure for the 1660 MW unit takes several months, meaning the unit could be connected to the grid and begin commercial operation by the end of the year, CGN said.

The nuclear safety commission confirmed in a notice on its website that it had given the go-ahead for fuel loading, saying Taishan-1 is likely to become the world’s first EPR to go into operation.

Recent press reports said Taishan-1 and its sister unit Taishan-2 will begin commercial operation “months later than planned”. Construction of the two units began in 2009 and 2010.

CGN, which runs the Taishan project together with France’s EDF, said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange that a comprehensive evaluation had been carried out and it has been decided to “adjust the construction plan”.

The company said in December 2017 that Taishan-1 had been delayed to the second half of 2018 and Taishan-2 to 2019, from the second half of 2017 and the first half of 2018 respectively.

Status of Other EPRs

Fuel loading at the EPR under construction at the Okliuoto site in Finland is expected to take place by the end of 2018 with revenue service to begin in May 2019.  Fuel loading at the EPR under construction in Flamanville, France, is still expected to also take place by the end of 2018. However, issues raised by the French nuclear safety agency about welds in the secondary coolant loop at the plant may result in further delays.

Two EPRs are under construction at the Hinkley Point site in the UK. No firm date has been released for fuel loading at that project.

Westinghouse Status in China

By comparison four Westinghouse AP1000s also being built in China has not yet reached the point where they are ready to load fuel.  Reuters reported last February fuel loading at the first Westinghouse-designed AP1000 nuclear reactor on China’s east coast has been delayed due to unspecified “safety concerns.” The problem could be with the fuel assemblies themselves or with safety reviews similar to the US NRC’s ITAAC process.

Officials with the U.S.-based Westinghouse expected fuel loading to start last year, and it would have been followed by around six months of performance tests before the reactor could go into full operation in 2018.

Czech New Build Financing Decision by Mid-year

WNN: The Czech government is expected to reach a decision on the best way to finance new nuclear projects by mid-2018 according to  a statement by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The Standing Committee on Nuclear Energy met to consider investor models and financing for the construction of new nuclear reactors. Minister Tomáš Hüner said the country, which currently generates about a third of its electricity from six nuclear reactors, “definitely” needs a new reactor to replace at least some of the capacity at the older of its two nuclear plants, Dukovany. He said the committee had looked at three detailed possible investor models and also at how to finance such a project.

The committee considered options including

  • Creating a new subsidiary of CEZ to build the units with state backing;
  • The purchase by the state of an existing part of CEZ to build the plants, and
  • Splitting CEZ to transfer its nuclear plants to a state-owned company.

According to Reuters, Hüner told reporters that the state was not opposing to buying some CEZ assets, but should decide on the investment model for building a new nuclear plant before making any decisions on how the utility, which is majority owned by the state, should be split.

Reuters also reported that Czech Republic special envoy for nuclear energy, Jan Stuller, said experts advising the committee were “leaning toward having the state invest in the new plant.”

CEZ last year held talks with six companies and consortia which had expressed interest in building reactors at Temelín and Dukovany, including Westinghouse, Rosatom Overseas, EDF, Areva-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries joint venture Atmea; China General Nuclear Power Corp; and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power.

The Czech Republic’s state energy policy, approved by the country’s cabinet in June 2015, foresees one new unit at Dukovany, and possibly three more at the Dukovany and Temelín sites.

NRG Begins Collaboration With Sweden’s LeadCold for an Advanced Small Modular Reactor

NucNet: Netherlands-based NRG and LeadCold of Sweden have begun a multi-year collaboration on safety analysis of the “Sealer” (Swedish Advanced Lead Reactor) small modular lead-cooled reactor under design by LeadCold for deployment in remote arctic regions such as northern Canada.

NRG, the nuclear services company which operates the High-Flux Reactor at Petten in the Netherlands, said the two companies will compare their independent analysis. NRG also intends to use advanced 3D simulation techniques to confirm the feasibility of certain design safety features which cannot be evaluated using conventional simulation techniques.

In the long-term, LeadCold intends to construct an electrically heated model of its reactor. This should allow additional experimental verification of both the advanced design safety features and the simulation techniques applied by NRG.

The collaboration will put advanced simulation techniques developed at NRG as part of the Dutch national R&D program to the test, NRG project manager Ferry Roelofs said.

Janne Wallenius, LeadCold’s chief executive officer, said NRG’s advanced simulation techniques should confirm proper functioning of the reactor’s safety features and help convince safety authorities of LeadCold’s approach.

LeadCold was founded in 2013 with its head office in Stockholm and a Canadian subsidiary. The company is a spin-off from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

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